Sunday, April 12, 2015

Ride of Your Life by Ran Zilca

I first discovered Ran Zilca author of Ride of Your Life: A Coast-to-Coast Guide to Finding Inner Peacewhile researching my Be Strong Project (a project I created to help me become stronger in my 50th year). He had written a great article on building inner strength for Psychology Today which I used as the foundation for my project. Later, I had the opportunity to interview Zilca about inner strength. You can read that interview here. Recently, I was offered a free copy of Ride of Your Lifefor review. Below are my thoughts.

What is Ride of Your Life about?

In Zilca’s own words:
The book is a guide to inner peace, composed over a 6,000 mile, coast-to-coast solo motorcycle ride I took in 2010. I started in New York and rode to California and then down the California coast line. On my way I interviewed different scientists and authors like Deepak Chopra, Phil Zimbardo, Sonja Lyubomirsky, and Byron Katie. The collective wisdom of these experts and of the many people I met on the road, along with the meditative experience of riding in solitude each day, yielded very interesting insights that form the guide.

What was his motivation for this project?

Also in Zilca's words:
I was just turning 40, and being very successful in business and in my personal life, but unsure as to who I really am. I think that many people experience this type of feeling in midlife, where they know what they do and where they live, but not exactly sure who they are. It made me feel restless, so I went out to rediscover my identity, quiet the restlessness, and regain my inner peace.

My Thoughts:

This book is a little bit travelogue, a little bit self-help/self-discovery and a little bit memoir. If you sum up the three parts it is a great little book packed with wisdom. Here are some of my favorite nuggets:

From Dr. Barbara Frederickson Zilca learns bad experiences affect us more than good, but good is more frequent than bad. 

Her first book, Positivity, describes various research studies on positive emotions. The findings are astounding in their simplicity and have to do with the number of positive emotions a person experiences during a day compared with the number of negative emotions, a ratio that is simply called  “the positivity ratio.” If that ratio equals three or higher, you eventually go into an “upward spiral” – a state of flourishing. If your daily dose of positive emotion is less than three times the negative, you risk going into a negative state. Simply put, to flourish, you need to experience three times the good for anything bad. (Pg. 45)
This makes so much sense to me. On days when I come home from work thinking what a lousy day, yet can’t name the reason for my bad day – just a lot of small negative events this study explains it.  My bad day is due to my positivity ratio being upside down. I am not experiencing enough positive emotions to counteract all of my negative encounters.

An effective strategy to become happier:
Cultivate openness so that a person can recognize, notice, and appreciate the good that is already taking place in his or her life, and this way, tip the positivity ratio in his or her favor. (Pg. 45)
Instead of using “be positive” as a motto she prefers “be open,” or be appreciative and kind.

From Deepak Chopra he learns flexibility is the very source of inner strength: “Infinite flexibility is the secret of immortality.”
Flexibility is an attitude more than anything else. It means that I don’t need to always be rigidly attached to anything: a situation, a relationship, a point of view, or an outcome. If you are flexible, the challenge is gone. (Pg. 165)
Lastly, I am adding traveling between Routes 61 and 152 to my bucket list. Zilca describes this landscape as surprisingly Mediterranean. I am also adding the Gila National Forest to the list which reminded Zilca of Switzerland. 

Bottom Line:
Ride of Your Life is a great little book packed with nuggets of wisdom. I recommend it for mid-lifers experiencing a crises or anyone at any stage of life who is looking for more. My only negative is the book seemed to end rather abruptly. I get it the ride was over and Zilca went home, but I would have preferred more exploration of what he learned and how he applied these new ideas once he returned home.

Have you read this book?  What were your thoughts?

Sunday, April 05, 2015

What Is Your Go-To-Diet Meal? March Recap

Project Manhattan
The first quarter of my 2015 live healthy on a budget challenge is now complete. I know I keep saying this challenge is not about weight loss, but I have to admit I was hoping to lose a couple of pounds and certainly didn’t think I’d gain weight. Unfortunately as of today, I am two pounds heavier than I was on January 1st. My new employee works part-time at a chocolate store – chocolate is one of my major weaknesses and all of her lunch room samples have gotten the best of me.

In years past, when I’ve lost a substantial amount of weight I’ve used the break-up diet (you all know what this one is don’t you – your significant other dumps you and you can’t bring yourself to eat) and starvation – meaning I ate almost nothing - a can of vegetables for dinner then allowing myself one soda cracker if I woke up during the night with hunger pangs. I did manage to lose weight a few years ago utilizing portion control and healthy eating, but haven’t been able to do this yet this year.

Throughout the years my go-to-diet meal has been Flounder and Vegetables Sealed in Silver. This is easy to make and is perfect for a Friday night when you have a big event the next day. This is not a meal I could eat every night, actually probably not more than once every two weeks or so plus, neither sole or flounder are offered at my local grocery store right now, so I am on the look-out for new diet recipes.

I did make a few healthy meals which are worth mentioning this month. They are:

Turkey Meatloaf from The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Acid Reflux Diet
by Maria Bella (As far as acid reflux books go, this one is helpful plus, it contains over 120 recipes)
I’ve made quite a few turkey meatloaf recipes over the years. This is one of the best. It includes a cup of frozen vegetables and mozzarella cheese. As for an acid reflux recipe it is also pretty good, most of them are so bland. My husband has been on an acid reflux diet for about two months now, though his doctor was never sure if acid reflux was the cause of his pain. Since the diet and medication don’t seem to be working, his doctor now believes the pain is from arthritis not acid-reflux.

Teriyaki Tuna Steaks from Leslie L. Cooper’s Low-Fat Living Cookbook: 250 Easy, Great-Tasting Recipes. Fresh tuna is not exactly a budget food, but this recipe was worth it.

Roasted Cauliflower with Chickpeas and Mustard recommended by Ray of British Mum USA. I’ve never had roasted chick peas before and was not disappointed.  I took this one to work for lunch, since hubby refuses to eat chick peas. All I can say is he doesn’t know what he’s missing.

This Zucchini soup recipe.

Here are my remaining healthy living challenge stats for March:

Strength and physical fitness:
I made it to the gym three times a week every week this month (which was my goal). My fitness class rotation includes a turbo kick class, Zumba and cardio combat. I also attended a step and an insane strength class one day when I was off of work.

I was able to do eleven walking pushups at the end of the month.  January 1st I was able to do seven, so I am making progress.

$500 a month grocery budget:
We spent $453 in February. We bought a lot of honey. I’ve been using it in healthy muffin recipes and my husband has been making a honey and apple vinegar concoction for his acid reflux as a replacement for coffee. I also spent money on frozen fruit, shrimp, low-fat ground beef and a pork roast.

Healthy living books:
I finished four books this month:

The No More Excuses Diet  by Maria Kang:
My opinion of this book became tainted when I became aware of her fat-shaming tactics which I wrote about here.

Drop Dead Healthy; One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection by A.J. Jacobs:
This one was too much of a publicity stunt for me to be taken seriously, but I did add some of the books he mentioned to my reading list.

Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain by Portia De Rossi
A book about eating disorders and self-acceptance I won't be forgetting anytime soon.

Ride of Your Life: A Coast-to-Coast Guide to Finding Inner Peace by Ran Zilca
This book brought new insight into the stresses of my life.  Watch for my review next week.

April Goals:
For April, I plan to get serious about weight-loss.  I am considering a no-sugar diet reset. Trish of Love, Laughter & Insanity recently lost six pounds on a 21-day sugar reset. I will need a couple of weeks to research and prepare. In the meantime, I am looking for new healthy meal suggestions.

Also, for April I am considering adding a 4th workout to my weekly line up.

What is your favorite go-to diet meal?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Portia De Rossi Admits Falling For It

Motivation for reading:
I decided to read Portia De Rossi’s book Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gainafter seeing it on a list of books about self-acceptance. One of my 2015 goals for this blog is to promote self-acceptance.

What is Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain about?
Portia De Rossi is a model and actress who stared in the popular TV shows Ally McBeal and Arrested Development. In this book she shares her personal struggle with eating disorders. Beginning at age 12 she began practicing excessive dieting and bulimic behaviors to stay thin for her modeling career. After feeling shamed by her size 8 body during a photo shoot for L’OrĂ©al she takes her diet and fitness obsessions to a new level and becomes anorexic. Weighing only 82 lbs. she collapses. Doctors inform her she has osteoporosis and her organs were shutting down, but it wasn’t until she realizes she "fell for it" while reading Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Mythdoes she begin a turn-around:
I remember feeling ashamed for calling myself a feminist when I had blatantly succumbed to the oppression of the mass media telling me what was beautiful, how to look and what to weigh. I had always prided myself on the fact that I was smart, analytical, and someone who didn’t “fall for it.” By starving myself into society’s beauty ideal, I had compromised my success, my independence, and my quality of life. The stick-thin prepubescent girls never should have had power over me. I should’ve had my sights set on successful businesswomen and successful female artists, authors and politicians to emulate. Instead I stupidly and pointlessly just wanted to be considered pretty. I squandered my brain and my talent to squeeze into a size 2 dress while my male counterparts went to work on making money, making policy, making a difference. (Pg. 287)
My Thoughts:
This is a book about De Rossi and the conversations she has with herself about food, body image and her lack of self-acceptance. She mentions only in passing Ellen DeGeneres and a few of her co-stars from Ally McBeal. I was struck by how lonely she was and how she feared she would lose her career if her true sexual orientation was discovered. Her detailed account of eating rituals and obsessive workouts are truly scary.

Another interesting point, even at 82 pounds De Rossi still saw herself as fat. It wasn’t until after her health scare that she realized dieting wasn’t going to change her body’s proportions:
I saw a round face, thin arms, a body rib cage, a thick waist, and big thick legs. It was the same body I had always seen, only smaller. The proportions were the same. (Pg. 272)
Bottom Line:
If you know someone with an eating disorder and are interested in learning more about their rituals and how they think I recommend this book. I don’t recommend it for someone with an eating disorder. Professionals feel it is too much of a how-to guide for those prone to eating disorders and they may get additional ideas. It also glosses over the recovery process.

I do recommend it for a self-acceptance book club. It could lead to an interesting discussion.

As for me, I too fell for it. I’ve written before about how I spent most of my free time in my teens and early twenties shopping for the perfect outfit, styling my hair and experimenting with beauty regiments. My husband, on the other hand, at the same age was participating in sports, learning new things, working and traveling. I am also adding Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth to my reading list since I’ve never read it in its entirety.

Have you fell for society’s definition of the beauty ideal? What books would you recommend for a self-acceptance book club?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Drop Dead Healthy

Motivation for reading:

I read A.J. Jacobs book Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfectionin search of ideas and inspiration for my 2015 Challenge to Live Healthy on a Budget.

What is Drop Dead Healthy about?
While on vacation in the Caribbean Jacobs is hospitalized for tropical pneumonia.  After his wife tells him she doesn’t want to be a widow at 45, he decides it’s time to get healthy. He conjures up a challenge for himself to become the healthiest man in the world.  This book chronicles his challenge. Each month he focuses on a different area of his body performing research, consulting experts and implementing what he learns.

My Thoughts:
Initially, I enjoyed Jacob’s escapades to get healthy, but the more I read the more his challenge seemed like a farce. Instead of teaching us to become healthier the book felt like a gimmick. Even Jacobs tired of the variety; after trying several different fitness classes he writes:
It is getting numbing instead of inspiring.  It almost always boils down to moving your arms and legs in a room of mirrors. (Pg. 250)
He then decides he needs an exercise goal and begins training for a triathlon. He doesn’t chronicle his training (which may have been interesting), but instead continues writing about different areas of his body.

I did enjoy his visit to Whole foods with Marion Nestle author of What to Eat;particularly his discussion with Nestle about super foods and antioxidants.  He writes, "We tend to believe the food with the antioxidants is the best.  It makes us overlook all the other non-super foods such as apples and oranges." Here is what Nestle says about blueberries:
The blueberry obsession can be traced, in part, to the clever marketing efforts of the Maine wild blueberry growers.  A decade ago, the Maine blueberry industry was in trouble.  In years past, blueberry promoters had tried several strategies: They attempted to market blueberries as candy.  Even odder, they ran a campaign suggesting blueberries as a condiment to put on hamburgers.  Nothing worked.  But when a Tufts study said that wild blueberries had a high antioxidant rating, they ran with it, and blueberries have become the prototypical health food. (Pg. 97)

In the end, Jacobs does complete a triathlon and according to his stats is healthier.  He includes a list of the best tips and advice he received in the appendix. This is helpful since much of the advice he writes about is confusing and contradictory.  

Bottom Line:
I was looking for a more serious take on this topic, but did find the book to be entertaining and not a complete waste of my time. If you enjoy experimental journalism and or humorous books you may like this one, if not skip the book and read the appendix.

Have you read Drop Dead Healthy?  If so what were your thoughts? What books would you recommend for a live healthy challenge?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Is Maria Kang a Healthy Role Model?

This month I read Maria Kang’s book The No More Excuses Diet: 3 Days to Bust Any Excuse, 3 Weeks to Easy New Eating Habits, 3 Months to Total Transformation for the From Left to Write Book Club. The book wasn’t great, but it did help me recognize my own excuses and motivate me to get my healthy living challenge back on track Most of Kang's diet and fitness advice isn't new. You can read the first chapter where she introduces the majority of her tips here. 

Prior to reading the book I hadn’t heard of Maria Kang or the controversy she created when she posted the following photo to her Facebook page:


The photo went viral and Kang was vilified by critics for “fat shaming.”
At first, I was irritated by her photo, but the more I thought about it I became angry.   If you look into Kang's background you learn she is a former fitness competitor and personal trainer making it easier for her to get back into shape after having children. Also, she admits to struggling with bulimia.  I can't help but wonder if she isn't still obsessed with compulsive exercise and being thin.  I don't think she is a healthy role model and do think the air-brushed photo above is fat shaming.
I would have been more likely to consider Kang a healthy role model if she would have used the following more natural photo: 
As for healthy role models, I prefer Eliz Greene of Embrace Your Heart whom I've written about before.
Eliz was seven-months pregnant with twins when she suffered a massive heart attack. Her life changed — not only did she survive a ten-minute cardiac arrest, the cesarean delivery of her daughters and open-heart surgery, all on the same day — she gained new perspective and passion for life. Eliz developed strategies to fit activity and healthy habits into her life. She lost the more than eighty pounds she gained while pregnant and has kept it off for more than a decade.
I had the pleasure of attending a presentation given by Greene a few years ago.  She is this teeny tiny women who danced across the stage persuading her audience to exercise in ten minute increments when we were unable to fit a 30 minute workout into our schedule. Many women can't make it to the gym 5 to 6 times a week, but we can dance around the kitchen while doing the dishes.
Do you think Maria Kang is a healthy role model?  If not who is your healthy role model?

Sunday, March 08, 2015

February Healthy Living Recap – Excuses Edition

While January was all about work, February was all about transitions; one of my employees resigned, my husband is forced to change his diet – he has acid reflux, we are undergoing a major remodeling project which put our home in a state of flux and my beloved dog Buck was diagnosed with inoperable lymphoma. Once again, my live healthy on a budget challenge was not the major focus of my life. 

Here is my “February Healthy Living Challenge” recap:

Strength and physical fitness:
Strengthening my core is one of the main goals of my healthy living challenge – strong back and stomach muscles help prevent injuries. I am using the walking pushup as the exercise to measure my core strength progress. On January 1st I was able to do seven walking pushups. On February 28th, I managed ten, but just barely. During February, I attended eight fitness classes and went on three walks. My goal is to attend three fitness classes a week, but with my employee leaving and the cold February Wisconsin temperatures I worked long hours or just went home foregoing my classes. I did not meet this goal.

Weigh-in and healthy eating:
I lost 1.5 pounds in February. I had gained 1.5 pounds in January, so my weight is now the same as it was on January 1st. With the change to a low-fat, bland diet for my husband’s acid reflux I honestly thought I would lose more weight. With all the added stress this month, I did succumb to several lunch room treats; there were treats for Valentine’s Day, Fat Tuesday, birthday’s, I hate Monday’s, thank goodness it’s Friday and going away treats for my employee.

Grocery Budget:
During February I set a monthly grocery budget of $500 for my husband and me. In January we spent $605. February came in at $471. I still think we can do better than this. We did stock-up on lean meats that were on sale, but paid full-price for some fresh produce. Budget suggestions from readers include buy frozen fruits and vegetables, eat cabbage salad in winter, make your own muffins for snacks, buy in-season, use what you have, grow your own, buy store brands, eat less meat and more mushrooms. I also learned it is cheaper to buy expensive grains, rice and nuts from your grocer’s bulk bins rather than individual packages and that nuts keep longer if you store them in the freezer.

Mental-Well Being:
Considering all that happened in February, I did pretty well maintaining my mental well-being. I felt confident and strong whereas in year’s past I’d sink into a slump during February. A highlight of the month was attending the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s performance of The Good People. I am sure attending this performance will make my list of top-ten highlights of 2015.

Overall Thoughts on February:
Initially I was going to sum up February by talking about how it was a transition month, with all the changes that are occurring I didn’t have time to work on my health challenge, I was tired, frustrated, lacked energy and hopefully will do better next month. Then I started reading Maria Kang’s book The No More Excuses Diet: 3 Days to Bust Any Excuse, 3 Weeks to Easy New Eating Habits, 3 Months to Total Transformation she immediately points out these are excuses
Excuses validate choices. They let us off the hook and give us permission to fail. (Introduction Pg. IX)
Kang recommends creating a meaningful goal. She writes if you are unmotivated to work out or eat healthy perhaps you haven’t landed on the deep, desirable reasons this journey is important to you.

Last week, I had an appointment with a new primary physician. We went over my family history and all of my mom’s health issues. This reinforced my initial reason for creating a healthy living challenge – I hope to be more like my maternal grandmother who lived to be 95 and was healthy to the end than other less healthy members of my family.

The number one health recommendation from my doctor is for me to eat foods high in calcium. My mom has severe osteoporosis. She suggests I remain on the birth-control pill until I am in menopause and to eat foods high in calcium at every meal. Unfortunately, she claims cheese is not a high calcium food. She is not found of calcium supplements because too much calcium could cause Hypercalcemia and may lead to atherosclerosis. With all of the heart disease in my family history she suggests I fulfill my calcium requirement with food. She also suggests I take a vitamin D supplement and a baby aspirin every day. As to working out, she is happy with my three fitness classes a week and was even okay with me not meeting this goal in February.

Health Goals for March:
This month I’m keeping it simple - eat food high in calcium with every meal and attend 3 fitness classes each week. I’m looking forward to trying Maria Kang’s fruit smoothie: ½ cup strawberries, ½ cup blueberries, ½ banana, handful of spinach and 1 cup almond milk. (Both spinach and almond milk are good sources of calcium.)

This post was inspired by The No More Excuses Diet by Maria Kang who shares her no excuses philosophy that motivated her to become more fit. Join From Left to Write on March 12th as we discuss The No More Excuses Diet. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

How did you live healthy during February? What are your health goals for March?

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Do You Feel Successful?

One of my employees resigned this month.  As we were going over her exit paperwork she blurted out, “I never felt successful here.” I was flabbergasted, “What do you mean you WEREN’T SUCCESSFUL HERE?” She had been an exemplary employee and extremely successful. 

“I couldn’t keep up with the paperwork. I’d go home every night and worry about the piles of un-posted invoices. I never felt successful.”
This employee had worked at our company for twelve years as an Accounts Payable Associate. She managed the payables for eight of our stores. Invoices came in daily.  Having ALL of the invoices posted at any one time was an unattainable goal.  She would never be 100% caught up. 

Several times over the last couple of years, she’s complained about her piles of unfinished paperwork and I’ve always discredited her concerns especially when she suggested hiring additional staff.  As long as she had the previous month’s invoices posted (and she always did) by the time I closed that month’s financial statements I considered her keeping up.  Instead I would recommend more efficient ways she could perform her job.
A few weeks ago, just the two of us were in on a Saturday, she took this as an opportunity to discuss her workload and our company’s plans to build a new store this year.  This would mean even more work for my employee.  I again discussed the changes she needs to make in her position to take advantage of technology and become more efficient. I offered to help her. She still uses an outdated version of our accounting software that does not support some of the new features required for her job. She asked if we would consider hiring additional staff.  I again told her no.

The following Monday she resigned. She plans on working for her son at his business.
This employee hates change with a passion and pushes back when our company requires her to do so, but this does not mean she wasn’t successful.  As she was about to leave for good I asked her to come into my office, but was interrupted by our company’s President so I included him in my conversation.  I told him she hadn’t felt successful at our company and the two of us rattled off all the reasons why she was a success.  I could count on one hand the mistakes she had made.  She never voided checks while her predecessor would hand my boss several voided checks daily. We received more returned checks mailed to the wrong vendor in one day under her predecessor than during the entire 12 years this employee worked at our company. Our President chimed in with how she got along with everyone (he feels this is more important than her accuracy).  He thanked her for handling all of those irate payable vendors during the recession with such diplomacy and pleasantness.  He then told her if she ever decided she wanted to come back he would find a spot for her. 

I hope she left feeling like a success. 
Personally, I currently feel more successful than I have in the past.  My husband’s semi-retirement at the end of last year has freed-up my time so I can devote more of it to work without worrying about cleaning and errands.  As much as I complained about the work conference I attended last month, I returned with new ideas and new energy. I’m also happy with my current blog challenge to live healthy on a budget.  I had been floundering in search of a niche that feels like my purpose and think this may be it.

How about you?  Do you feel successful? Why or why not?